OiNK! #20: BAY OF PiGS

As with the crime theme in OiNK #14 (my first ever issue), having a humour comic based around war may seem odd at first. But pig pals and regular readers of this blog will know we had nothing to fear because as per usual the team grabbed the subject with both hands, and actually have created one of the best issues yet. It kicks off with Eric (Wilkie) Wilkinson‘s brilliant front cover featuring parachuting pigs sneaking up on enemy trenches during World War One. I always liked Wilkie’s art style, it was unique and had a real texture to it.

He continues the story inside with a double-page spread as soon as we open the issue. The Forgotten Heroes tells the tale of a British regiment in their last desperate days before being overrun by the enemy. A cunning plan is developed to fly hundreds of soldiers over the enemy and parachute down for a successful surprise attack. But not just any soldiers, the army were going to use pigs! This is a brilliant spoof of the kind of strips we’d have seen in Battle or today in Commando comic, but beware the horrifying twist in the tale (tail).

I definitely didn’t see that coming, not in the pages of this comic that’s for sure. While clearly as pig pals we should feel sorry for how it all ended it’s a very funny picture to see the pile of sausages with the posthumous medal on top. Although, it could be argued the strip was also making a point about the pointlessness of war, something Mr Big Nose certainly shouts about later in the issue, as you’ll see below. Wilkie only joined OiNK last time and he’s already making a name for himself with original, clever and most importantly very funny strips.

In recent years to be a geek has become very chic. It wasn’t always the case of course. I was fortunately never bullied for reading comics back in my later years in grammar school, there was just some good natured ribbing. That’s not to say others didn’t have to put up with narrow-minded kids trying to have a laugh at their expense. For all those comics fans Lew Stringer created Specky Hector, the Comics Collector, a stereotypical comics fan who in this case gets the upper hand over the bully in typical Lew fashion.

Hector would only appear one more time in the pages of OiNK in a special guide to collecting comics but he would pop up occasionally in the pages of Buster after OiNK folded. As recent as 2020 he also appeared in the Battle special from Rebellion when this strip was reprinted in colour. Then, just last year Lew brought us a little update on Hector in a special piece of art commissioned to raise money for the War Child charity, and you can check it out for yourself by reading the blog post.

There isn’t a single panel here without a genuine laugh-out-loud moment

Davey Jones is synonymous with Viz comic and his contributions to OiNK were always manic, packed to the page edges with jokes, sight gags and the zaniest plots imaginable. There are three of his larger strips in particular which from memory are not only clear highlights of the issues they were published in, but of the entire OiNK series. The first of which in here. Called Bridge Over the River Septic it’s the (nearly) true story of a British army camp in Africa during the Second World War and their brave plan to capture a Nazi base positioned across the dangerously named river.

Of course, in the end the river is a quaint little jungle stream, complete with a delicately decorated bridge. There isn’t a single panel here without a genuine laugh-out-loud moment, whether it’s the looney plotting, the stark-raving mad general of the British troops, the caricatures of the enemy, or the multitude of background gags that surely must be a tip of the hat to the legendary Tom Paterson. (Keep an eye out for the factory in the background.)

My two favourite bits here (there are many) is that aforementioned factory and the brilliantly named General Von Manwenttomow! When signing his larger strips Davey would often label himself in soft daft way, sometimes even making a joke of his allegedly terrible writing talents. But his genius can’t be mocked. Starting off pretty insane, somehow Bridge Over the River Septic keeps building on this, getting zanier with each scene. It may only be a page-and-a-half but it’s so full of jokes it feels far longer. I mean that in a good way of course; there’s just so much packed into this space.

Other highlights include regular characters being inspired by the events of war, like Tom Thug building himself a wooden tank and Hadrian Vile assembling his own army against the local school bully. There’s a poster depicting a Wild West battle between pigs and butchers and The Golden Trough Awards parodies The Great Escape which you can see a couple of panels of below, next to part of a spread called Famous Last Words!

I’m sure most of you will at least have heard about the story King Solomon’s Mines or its central character, Allan Quartermain, seeing as how the classic book by H. Rider Haggard has been adapted into several movies, comics, television shows and radio plays. The movie I remember enjoying on Saturday afternoon TV was the tongue-in-cheek adaptation starring Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone and the ever-brilliant John Rhys-Davies. It was released in 1985 and a year later OiNK saw it as the perfect target for the next multi-issue epic.

Written by Mark Rodgers and drawn by Ron Tiner, King Solomon’s Swines is a five-part serial and the first such strip to be drawn by someone other than J.T. Dogg. Ron’s style suits the story perfectly and to me brings a certain Tintin feel, which of course is exactly right for this story of a lost temple. The lead character is renamed Sir Herbert Quarterbrain and he takes his niece and nephew with him, who end up victim to all of the traps as the explorer himself remains unscathed. Here’s chapter one, called The Temple of Gloom, an obvious spoof on a similar style of movie series.

Funny names, clumsy sidekicks, pig-themed relics and the ignoring of all the danger signs as heroes in these stories often do, it’s a good start. It also stands out in this issue for another reason. I’ve mentioned before how most, but not necessarily all of the contents of each OiNK would follow the theme, some issues more than others. The obvious Christmas issue aside, this war theme seems to be the one that’s really got the creative juices flowing because King Solomon’s Swines is the only strip in the whole issue that breaks from the subject (the serials always did, for obvious reasons).

It’s one of those pages you could show to someone by way of describing exactly what OiNK was

Continuing right to the very last page, the back cover has a little moral tale for the young readers. The year after this in 1987 I received the 50th anniversary book for The Dandy and Beano. A large portion of it was dedicated to the comics during wartime and it was a fascinating read to see how they not only survived those years, but how they kept the children company. They contained rousing little tales of heroism among children which would connect with the readers of the 1940s, relating the ongoing war to them in ways they could understand.

OiNK decided to have a go at one of these. The result is Jim and Joe, A moving tale of War and Friendship. Drawn by Chas Sinclair it’s sung to the tune of ‘Two Little Boys’, but even if you can’t place that tune in your head it’s still a great laugh and a perfect end to the issue. In fact, it’s one of those pages you could show to someone by way of describing exactly what OiNK was, and why it was so adored by so many of us in the 80s.

That may be the final page but it’s not the last word on this issue. Before we get to that, I just have to say this has been a brilliant issue. With all but one of the strips keeping to the subject, while being so completely different to each other, it really shows the dynamic range of talent OiNK’s editors Mark Rodgers, Tony Husband and Patrick Gallagher had been able to assemble. It feels like the most confident issue to date and with some of the best themes yet to come it bodes very well indeed for some hilarious reading throughout 2022.

The next review will be of the Valentine’s Special and that’ll be here on Monday 7th February, but I’ll just dip back inside this issue for that last word I mentioned, in fact the last word on war in general, and it’s from Jeremy Banx and his Mr Big Nose.

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